The inspiration for The Last Alaskans—the eight-part documentary series on the Discovery Channel! Called “[one of] the greatest life-or-death-tales ever told” (Esquire), James Campbell’s inimitable insider account of a family’s nomadic life in the unshaped Arctic wilderness “is an icily gripping, intimate profile that stands up well beside Krakauer’s classic [Into the Wild], and it stands too, as a kind of testament to the rough beauty of improbably wild dreams” (Men’s Journal).
Hundreds of hardy people have tried to carve a living in the Alaskan bush, but few have succeeded as consistently as Heimo Korth. Originally from Wisconsin, Heimo traveled to the Arctic wilderness in his feverous twenties. Now, more than three decades later, Heimo lives with his wife and two daughters approximately 200 miles from civilization—a sustainable, nomadic life bounded by the migrating caribou, the dangers of swollen rivers, and by the very exigencies of daily existence.
In The Final Frontiersman, Heimo’s cousin James Campbell chronicles the Korth family’s amazing experience, their adventures, and the tragedy that continues to shape their lives. With a deft voice and in spectacular, at times unimaginable detail, Campbell invites us into Heimo’s heartland and home. The Korths wait patiently for a small plane to deliver their provisions, listen to distant chatter on the radio, and go sledding at 44° below zero—all the while cultivating the hard-learned survival skills that stand between them and a terrible fate.
Awe-inspiring and memorable, The Final Frontiersman reads like a rustic version of the American Dream and reveals for the first time a life undreamed by most of us: amid encroaching environmental pressures, apart from the herd, and alone in a stunning wilderness that for now, at least, remains the final frontier.
Heimo Korth was one of the many young men who set out for Alaska in the 1960s and '70s to recreate the life of early fur traders in the American West, a movement first observed in John McPhee's classic Coming into the Country. Journalist Campbell has written a worthy sequel to McPhee's book that is a powerful tale in its own right, focusing solely on Korth, who now "lives more remotely than any other person in Alaska" as one of only seven hunter-trappers with a permit to live in the 19.5-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Korth lives with his wife and two daughters 130 miles above the Arctic Circle, the only settlers for more than 500 miles (250 miles from the nearest road and another 300 miles to the nearest hospital in Fairbanks). Campbell artfully details a number of visits he makes to the Korth family in 2002, as he accompanies Korth on hunting and trapping expeditions that make him and the reader feel "transported straight back into the 19th century." He also sympathetically recounts Korth's flight from his abusive Wisconsin father and his reinvention of himself as an Alaskan "legend," a "gun-toting, park-hating anti animal rights trapper with a soft side" but one who is well respected by managers of the ANWR. What makes this more than just a profile of a fascinating personality is Campbell's deft weaving of Alaskan history into Korth's tale, showing how the recent influx of developers and ecotourists is making the trapping life "more of an anachronism with each passing year."
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The Final Frontiersman
Great book! I rarely finish a book that I start. I couldn't stop reading this book. I really enjoyed the adventures and way of life!
Couldn't Put It Down
This is one of the best books I've read that incorporates the dangers and struggles of a family living in the remote ANWAR and Brooks Range area with Alaskan history and folklore. Every chapter is interesting and captures the spirit of life in remote Arctic Alaska. I love the style and descriptions that put you right there. A must read for anyone who loves Alaska.